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No Automatic Abatement upon Death of Defendant; Heirs May Be Substituted As Parties in Order to Contest Financial Obligations of Deceased Defendant

A criminal defendant who dies during the pendency of his appeal is not entitled to abatement of his conviction or restitution obligations, the Supreme Court of Washington decided October 29, 2009. However, the heirs of a deceased defendant may substitute themselves as parties in the defendant’s criminal appeal in order to challenge any hardships created by the inheritance of the defendant’s criminal financial obligations, the court wrote.

Michael Webb died during the pendency of his appeal. Webb’s attorney argued that he was entitled to abatement of his conviction and sentence in light of his death. The Supreme Court of Washington disagreed, holding that it had abandoned the “automatic rate of abatement ab initio.”

However, the court decided that an heir may substitute themselves as a party in the deceased defendant’s criminal appeal so they may argue “that financial obligations other than restitution are unfairly burdensome.”

See: State v. Webb, 219 P.3d 695 (Sup. Ct. of Washington, 2009)

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Related legal case

State v. Webb